In addition to its credit programmmes, these non-credit programmes offer an opportunity to learn a new skill just for fun. Beginning Maori, French, Ukulele, Star Navigation, Weaving and Journalism have been on offer. Drumming, hula, water safety, computing, all sorts of cooking classes, and more are still to come. Amelia Borofsky who developed the new community education programme, will find out what locals and expats are interested in and then find community members passionate about a topic and willing to share their knowledge.
“We wanted to offer a cross-section of courses from language to arts to cooking.” Borofsky also emphasised, “these courses are meant for everyone, even those, especially those, who hate sitting in a classroom.” The second semester starting in July will see new courses including Tatau and Maori Medicine as well as the most popular courses repeated.
Violet Tisam has taken over the community education programme as Borofsky waits to return to running the Te Ulu o Te Watu Learning Center in Pukapuka. Tisam urged those interested in taking courses to contact her. “Courses are filling up quickly,” she said. “Ring us because we have new courses every month from now until the end of the year and you’ll miss out on this exciting opportunity to learn these new skills.”
Community members who have a skill they’d like to share may also contact her to see if their passion and skills might be of interest to the public.
So far, everyone has been enjoying the courses on offer. The rangaranga kikau course saw 15 people consistently show up ready to weave. One of the students, Christina Maclennan, from the Tangiiau family, wanted to learn to weave for her wedding business. “None of my cousins could remember anymore,” she said, “So I went to the Cook Islands library, and taught myself with a book. It is reviving now, which is great.”
Shannon Saunders plans to pass her learning on. “I want to continue to weave after the classes have finished,” she said, “I want to be able to do this with my grandchildren.”
The teacher, Ruta Pirangi, who has a stand in Arorangi and enjoys sharing her knowledge in the schools said, “I need to teach them and maybe they’ll get a feeling for it and pass it onto the kids at home doing nothing.”
Community education is all about celebrating, reviving and reinventing the rich local knowledge already here.
Tua Pittman has been teaching a popular star navigation course with 18 students regularly attending. “It’s good,” he said, “really good. It gives me a refresher. Also, I promised my teacher Mau Piailug that I would pass the knowledge on and so I am.”
The learners have found the universe opening up. “I love looking at the stars and learning all the star lines and star houses,” said Sam Timoko. Given the course’s popularity, it will likely be repeated again.
Rudy Aquino, of Hawaii fame, shared his skill in the ukulele class. Peter Tierney, manager of the Development Coordination Division at MFEM, said “if you can tune a ukulele you can work in Government.” While the ukulele course has ended, Kanoe Aquino will run a two-week beginning hula workshop starting tomorrow at 4pm. This course will see the ukulele students provide accompaniment. The hula students will be learning the same simple songs: the Hawaiian song E Huli and the Rarotongan song I Raro I Te Tumunu. Beginners, men and women are encouraged to sign up for the first week of March hula workshop. Mangaia, Aitutaki and Pukapuka will also offer community education focused on the knowledge of community members unique to each of those islands.